The Safe System

The Safe System in the National Road Safety Action Plan is a strategy, adopted by the Australian government to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on Australian roads. The approach is based on the Swedish Vision Zero , Dutch Sustainable Safety   and UK PACTS concepts introduced in the early nineties. It is being taken up increasingly around the world as  a part of the Towards Zero initiative aimed at improving road safety through four principles: Safe Road Use; Safe Roads; Safe Speeds  and Safe Vehicles.


The main challenge for automotive and road infrastructure engineers is to provide designs that take into account that:

  • road users make frequent mistakes that lead to road collisions

  • the human body has limited tolerance to injury thresholds

  • it is a shared responsibility between all road users to take appropriate actions to ensure that road collisions do not lead to serious or fatal injuries

This can be achieved through Self Explaining Road and Forgiving Roadside Philosophies.

The self explaining road

The self explaining road concept stands for a road and traffic environment that brings about safe road behavior simply by its design.


Energy Absorbing Bollards are stylish and provide an aesthetically obvious safety barrier and are safer, cheaper and better suited in an urban environment. 


In contrast, the “W” beam of the end terminal has sharp edges and corners and it is fitted next to the bicycle lane.

Bollards IMG_7738.JPG
wrong product used - road barrier.jpg

EABs are stylish and pose a low risk of injury to public

End terminal placed next to a bike lane

poses a high risk of injury to public

The goal of any road designer is to create an environment which will allow travelling public to reach their destination in a timely manner without creating a safety risk. In areas of high pedestrian activity, any additional furniture item or barrier must be constructed of safe materials and designed to prevent injury, without sharp edges or exposed fasteners. 


This means eliminating the use of rough and rugged highway barriers in public places. Not only is highway road furniture hazardous to pedestrians but it is also needlessly expensive and clashes with the original design of the space.   

McDonal Drive True Bollards IMG_7780-B.j

EABs are designed for public spaces

McDonal Drive True Road Barrier IMG_7780

End terminal placed in a low speed zone is a pedestrian hazard 

The forgiving road

This is simply the requirement that the roadside environment should not contain dangerous elements that will seriously injure or kill vehicle occupants that have unplanned trajectories.

The energy absorbing end terminal is a good choice in this case as it safely deforms during impact and completely stops an out of control vehicle.


On the other hand, a wooden post end terminal is frangible and does not stop the vehicle. A rigid end terminal is also a poor choice as it is frangible and is likely to enter the passenger area in the event of a crash. 



IAS Energy Absorbing End Terminal IMG_52

Energy absorbing end terminal

Designed to arrest an out of control vehicle

Road Barrier with wooden end terminal_59

Wooden post end terminal 

Does not arrest an out of control vehicle

Inferior End Terminal man-killed-in-traf

No end terminal 

Does not arrest an out of control vehicle

World Road Accident Statistics

At IAS we believe that road crash fatalities and injuries are predictable and can be prevented. The first step to achieve this is to raise awareness that road trauma in Australia is a major public health concern. With this knowledge we can take action to formulate informed strategies and solutions which will make our roads safer.   




World road deaths per 100,000 people

Safety for all road users

One of the most difficult challenges in road safety design is making roads safe for everyone. This means that vehicles need to be made safe for passengers but also need to be protective of other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.  Similarly, any piece of road furniture designed to protect pedestrians needs to be made safe to protect occupants of a vehicle.  



Proportions of world deaths by road user

Source: World Health Organization

Fatal crash types in Australia

Source: Road deaths Australia

Deaths by road user in Australia

Source: Road deaths Australia

Death causing injuries around the world

Source: World Health Organization

*Other includes: smothering, asphyxiation, choking, animal and venom bites, hypothermia and natural disasters

Examples of real life severe car crashes





Head-on collisions occur between vehicles travelling in opposite directions.

They can be controlled by installing energy absorbing road dividers, designing safer vehicles and enforcing safe driving laws.  



Stobie poles are steel and concrete poles used to support power lines. They are very deadly in common cases of cars running off the road and can result in power outages. Main risk mitigation strategies include running power lines underground or installing additional barriers. 

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Road barriers are typically used to absorb the force of an out of control vehicle running off the road. They can be placed either in the middle of the road to prevent direct car crashes, or at one end of the road to prevent out of control vehicles from hitting a road side object.

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